Somewhat Back to Normal – 94th Oscars Announced!

It’s been a month since what may have been the most batshit Oscars ceremony ever, and a lot of that train wreck was necessitated by the world’s adjustment to the COVID-19 pandemic. Timelines got shifted, streaming movies became an option, and the need for social distancing resulted in the whole affair being awkwardly staged at a metro station. It was a weird end to a weird year (and two months), but now that we’re seemingly coming out on the other side of this, the Academy is taking another step towards normalcy by announcing the timeline for next year’s Oscars! I know we just finished a Blitz, but it’s never too early to start prepping for the next one!

The full press release can be found here, but suffice to say, I’m on board, because the move represents a correction of the past year’s mistakes while keeping the one net positive intact. The Oscars are scheduled for Sunday, March 27th of next year, which seems like another delayed broadcast, but it really isn’t. The ceremony was regularly held in late March and early April until about 2003, when it shifted to February, and even then it went back to March briefly in 2006, so while February has been the recent norm, it’s by no means a tradition.

The reason for the later date is due to major sporting events. The Super Bowl will be held early in the month, which the Oscars always avoids. In addition, next year there will also be a Winter Olympiad in Beijing. There are myriad calls for the U.S. and other first-world countries to boycott in light of China’s human rights record, but if that didn’t stop the 2008 Summer Olympics from happening, I doubt it’ll make a difference here. So, thanks to that – and Hollywood’s general need to placate China for global box office – the Academy is just skipping February entirely and going to March, with the exception of the nominations, which will be announced on February 8th. I get the idea, but I’m a tad confused, because the Academy wants to sidestep the NFL and the Olympics, but they’re perfectly happy competing directly with March Madness? Okay, then.

Despite that, I’m all for it, if nothing else than for my own sanity. This year’s schedule gave me six weeks to get through the Blitz, and I spent the first week just prepping, scheduling, and seeing whatever I could that was still on my list. This time I’ll have a whopping seven weeks to get everything done. I might actually be able to take a day off once in a while during the affair. Compare this to last year, when the schedule was so rushed that I had to go basically non-stop due to a window of only four and a half weeks, and that was before the pandemic hit.

In another return to form, the eligibility deadline is returning to its normal date of December 31st. Strictly speaking, that means that this movie “year” will only be 10 months, and if Academy politics and marketing were different than they’ve been for the last two decades, I’d be worried. But alas, we all know that the prestige fare doesn’t start trickling out until September, and then we’ll have the usual glut right around Christmas for movies to meet the deadline and stay fresh in voters’ minds while the For Your Consideration campaigns get underway.

What will be interesting this time is the fact that there most likely won’t be a Golden Globes ceremony next year. That means when films and studios submit their work (general ballot submission deadline is November 15th), they’ll be doing so without the advance press that the Globes typically give in exchange for massive bribes and celebrity access. The field won’t necessarily be pre-biased this time, so hopefully that’ll mean that the Academy’s membership takes the submissions at face value for once.

There is still one outstanding variable in the schedule, and that’s the specialty categories deadline. Short films, animation, and international fare are on a different timetable than the rest of the films, usually two months ahead of the general ballot. If that goes back to its regular position, we’re looking at an October 31st date for submission and/or eligibility. The Academy will announce those rules next month.

So pretty much everything’s back the way it was, with one major exception, and it’s the one change that I hate in concept, but can’t deny I kind of love in execution. Enacted last year, the Academy allowed streaming films that were originally intended for a theatrical run (which typically means they have an MPA rating) to be considered even if they never made it to a theatre. It was written at the time that at its discretion, the Academy would rescind this rule and restore a primary theatrical requirement to the process. I hope that day comes soon, but for at least this year, the rule will remain in place, as some theatres are still slow to reopen, and audiences are only gradually getting over their hesitancy to go back. It’s not been a problem for me, but I get that others might be nervous. I literally explained the policies in place to my doctor yesterday because even she wasn’t sure when she’d venture out to a movie again, and L.A. theatres have been open for more than two months already.

Eventually, we have to return to the proper theatrical model, if nothing else than to save the industry and the movie-GOING experience. But in the interim, I’ll admit that my streaming options have saved me a bit of money. Between Netflix, Amazon, Hulu (on my roommate’s password), HBO Max (house’s satellite subscription), and Disney+ (on my sister’s password), I’ve been able to avoid crowds and prevent myself from shelling out money on movies that I believe will suck. I’m still going to the theatre more often than not right now, but it’s good to know I have other options. Until we’re fully out of the COVID woods, I’m fine with that flexibility remaining in the Academy bylaws. But once we get to herd immunity, fuck that shit, theatres only!

Join the conversation in the comments below! Did you watch this year’s Oscars? Are you excited for next years? Do you have any faith that the Academy will right the ship? Let me know!

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